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Lean, green, mowing machine!

I woke up early this morning to get a jump on the day. I had an article to finish and a lawn to mow. But the lawn, really just a yawning, sandy stretch of various and sundry weeds, came first. It was early enough to mow without the heat beating down too hard (630 am).

Only one problem: I don’t have a mower.

I’d had a used one once, when I first moved down here. But in between its inability to start up, its smoking and fuming when and if it did start up, and its ultimate complete breakdown, I’d given it up for dead about four years ago.

Since then, in those heady, payday few years of plentiful magazine assignments and a regular weekly column, I had a “yard man” who came by every other week or every third or fourth week, depending on the grass growth.

But the new economy has made me rethink the luxury of having a yard man when I could, probably should, be out there traipsing among the weeds myself. So, I let him go about three weeks ago, and my yard has been growing by leaps and weeds ever since.

This morning, it had reached a crisis point. Tall stringy weeds were sprouting up out of the earth like a platoon of merkets on the lookout. A few shorter, dainty and pretty weeds with purple and yellow flowers were modestly staking their claim. The overall effect, though, was unkempt!

So, I threw in a load of wash and planned to head over to Home Depot to buy a new lawn mower just as soon as I hung my laundry out on the line. But, as I was clipping towels to the line, I decided — one last time — to try the lawn mower my mother had given me.

It’s about a hundred years old (or at least looks it!). It propels on just your good looks and muscles. No gas. No battery. No nothing … except sweat. A lot of sweat.

Lean, green, mowing machine

Lean, green, mowing machine

The handle is made of wood that connects down at the bottom to an iron brace-type thing, inside of which are cute little blades that make an old-fashioned whirring sound as you push the mower along.

I’d tried this mower many times before, but always given up in frustration. My lawn (and I use that word optimistically) was just too full of tough, snaggly weeds and pits and pockets of sand to enable me to push it across a stretch without getting stuck too many times to count. I’d never get more than a couple of feet without some gnarly weed stalk getting caught up in the blades, bringing me to an abrupt halt.

But, I decided (or rather my concerns about having to charge a new lawn mower on my credit card decided for me) to give the little antique mower one more try.

And, whaddoyaknow? The bugger worked. Or I worked. Or, rather, the mowing gods smiled upon us and finally, sweetly, we worked in tandem.

I kept pushing that thing across my double-lot, concentrating on the tall weeds first and guiltily going back for the pretty, sweet ones second. I did have to stop and stoop over and pull out crabby kinds of grass and stubby things from in between one of the blades and the base until I thought I’d go crazy, but then about 45 minutes later, unbelievably, I stopped and looked back and you know, it looked pretty darn good. Not nearly as prim and proper as when the yard man came, but passable … and the price was right.

I’ve figured out that something in the mower needs to be adjusted. One of the blades just gets too close to a stationary part of the mechanism (don’t you love my tech-talk?!), so I’ll try to get that fixed soon because as I mowed, I considered that using this zero-carbon-footprint mower would be good on a lot of fronts: no use of fuel, no release of stuff into the air, no credit card debt from buying a new mower that I can’t otherwise afford, no need to buy gasoline and oil, a very decent workout, and a surprising sense of accomplishment!

Not too mention, my outdoor activities and occasional profanities kept my cats thoroughly entertained as they monitored my progress from various windows around the house. I think, but I”m not sure, that they were kind of laughing all the way.

Posted on May 3rd, 2009Comments RSS Feed
2 Responses to Lean, green, mowing machine!
  1. I have one of those mowers myself, and must confess the same experience. We also live in southwest Florida, also have a busted gas mower, and found the old push mower under the house, left abandoned by the old, antique collecting homeowners.
    Fiddle with the adjustment screws to move that “stationary part of the mechanism,” and sharpen the blades with a flat file (five bucks or less at a flea market).
    Continued luck,


  2. Ty — thanks for reading the column and for posting a comment. Good idea for sharpening the blades … thanks so mcuh for visiting the site — come back anytime!

    all best,



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